According to the International Data Corporation, by the end of this year, 72% of the global workforce will become mobile.
Due to increased mobility, millions of workers are transitioning daily from traditional “I” assigned spaces to shared “we” spaces. By sharing desks but also collaborating more frequently, workers expose themselves to the millions of microbes on shared work surfaces, be it an open-plan office, meeting rooms, collaborative areas, and cafeterias.
Ten million bacteria, to be precise. According to the research by Dr. Charles Gerba, professor at the University of Arizona, published by Steelcase, office workers’ hands come in contact with 10 million bacteria a day while 80% of infections can be transmitted by touch. Germs live on various surfaces, and office desks are no exception to the rule. “Desktops are among the worst germ traps,” explained Gerba for Steelcase.
Read more: Sharing desks, sharing germs
The impact of absenteeism due to sick leaves directly affects not only the company’s financial bottom line but also its personnel, so unsurprisingly, 70% of UK workers still come to work when feeling unwell, according to Aviva UK Health.
“Bad health outcomes can lead to poor business outcomes in regard to absenteeism, presenteeism, accidents and increased costs, so there’s been significant focus on prevention,” says Beatriz Arantes, a Steelcase researcher who co-led a recent exploration of worker wellbeing.
Another research by CV-Library states that on average, UK employees (66.4%) take between one to two sick days a year, and of those that do take time off, more than a third feel pressured either by their peers or managers to return to work early.
Read more: Wellbeing: a bottom-line issue
Auburn University College of Human Sciences Associate Professor and Interior Design Program Coordinator Lindsay Tan has recently discussed how the design of certain spaces can help contain the outbreak of disease-causing pathogens and their spread throughout indoor environments.
Taking into consideration that on average, we spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors, Tan was also exploring the importance of interior design in disease prevention.
“Our health is influenced by everything we touch in these interior environments. Disease-causing pathogens can be transferred from person to person, but also through everyday objects—the waiting room chairs at the doctor’s office, the door handle to the breakroom at work, the clipboard passed around at a volunteer event. Being exposed to common viruses and bacteria in this way can help to build up our immune system. When it comes to more severe diseases, though, it is critical to have interior environments that can protect our health by reducing pathogen transmission,” Tan commented.
Looking at the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak on the Diamond Princess, a British luxury cruise ship, which was quarantined last month with almost 3,700 passengers and crew, in Yokohama, Japan, Tan further explained why such environments play a central role in a disease outbreak.
Tan said: “The interior rooms of the Diamond Princess are advertised as being approximately 158 to 162 square feet in size – that’s just a little bit bigger than four single-person handicap-accessible restrooms – but with all of the amenities you would expect in a luxury room. That’s a lot of surfaces to clean in a very small space. And when someone in that room is sick, they are breathing and sneezing and coughing on all of those surfaces.”
However, in hospital environments, as Tan explained, interior designers are obliged to choose materials that meet stringent healthcare requirements and can be easily sterilized and cleaned, such as vinyl flooring with rolled edges, laminated countertops and stainless steel sinks with offset drains.
“Research shows that employees who are highly satisfied with their workplace demonstrate positivity and enthusiasm, which is crucial for the growing need of creativity and innovation in projects,” explains Hina Kidwai, senior interior designer at OFIS.
Commenting on the necessity of implementing a more human-centric approach workspace design, Hina says that the companies need to empower their workers to reconfigure their own space to their needs as well as change postures frequently throughout the day.
“We often talk about the Google-inspired office spaces that are filled with quirky and cool office furniture, but, in many cases, such workplaces fail to consider basic human needs – such as the need for privacy, rejuvenation, and focus. We need spaces that are both welcoming and productive,” adds Hina.
Antimicrobials show promise as one of the ways to create health-conscious work environments proactively. Although antimicrobial materials should not replace or decrease regular cleaning routines or good hygiene practices, they can add another level of potential benefit by reducing germs in the workplace, Steelcase reports.
For several years, Steelcase has been exploring antimicrobial technologies and how they fit into the context of worker wellbeing, sustainability, and productivity for employers. Among the array of antimicrobial options, several have the potential for work environments.
A few years ago, Steelcase partnered with a leading innovator in antimicrobials, NanoBioMatters, to develop the use of its BactiBlock® antimicrobial technology for one of their key products - Ology desking. The active ingredient is ionic silver. A durable and long-lasting antimicrobial protection for Ology is molded into desk components that are the most frequently touched areas, such as the power access door, crank, Simple Touch controller, and the soft edge.
Find out more about Ology desks: Supporting wellbeing in the workplace
Many global companies in Europe, Asia, and the US are now encouraging their employees to work from home as a precautionary measure. As Business Insider reports, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are now restricting all non-essential business travel to keep the virus from spreading, giving their employees instructions to work remotely for the time being.
Steelcase 360 magazine has recently published another story relevant to the current situation, titled “Making Distance Work” about working remotely.
For some people, working from home is already part of their routine. Still, for many, it’s a new way of working, bringing challenges such as managing work in a small space while being frequently interrupted by children or other family members who are most likely staying at home, too.
Read the full article here: Suddenly working from home?
1. Decide on your schedule each day and try to stick to it.
2. If you are not at your computer, be sure to communicate that with your colleagues.
3. Think about ways to keep relationships intact while working from home
4. Institute, a quick daily virtual team, connect to keep work moving forward.
5. Take a lesson from agile teams and start a virtual project board.
6. Video should be the default setting for any remote collaboration.
7. If you’re on a video call, close any open applications to preserve computing resources for the video.
8. Avoid rooms with lots of hard surfaces that echo (like a kitchen).
9. Not everyone has a home office, so think about establishing a territory that clearly signals: “I’m at work.”
10. Look for ways to vary your posture and the spots where you work throughout the day.
Join us in our new video series "In Your Space" as we take you inside some of the most innovative (and coolest) commercial spaces across the UAE that our OFIS team has worked on!Learn More
How could Covid-19 impact retail design? Will interior designers have to rethink the concepts of human-centric design, putting the people’s health and safety above the actual experiences and convenience? As shoppers, will we ever be able to feel safe in crowded supermarkets or comfortable enough with sanitation officers behind our backs and thermal scans at every doorstep?Learn More
Viva Magenta is Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2023. This vibrant hue symbolizes strength, vivaciousness, and harmony. This year’s color selection is derived from natural elements and dyes which reconnect us with our inner strength and galvanizes the spirit.Learn More
World Health Day raises awareness about the importance of global health and well-being. The team at OFIS is commemorating the 75th edition of this day by focusing on the global theme being #HealthForAll. We support the creation of healthy working spaces and motivating everyone to prioritise health always.Learn More
Stress and chaos go hand-in-hand, which is why a messy workstation is often a reflection of one’s mood and state of mind. When this is out of balance, it can negatively impact one’s mental clarity and productivity. Here are our top tips for decluttering your workspace.Learn More
Workspaces around the world continue to transform, with emphasis placed on cultivating optimal working environments. One of the most important decor elements is colour, as it has the power to inspire creativity and productivity in teams. Here’s a guide on how to create a performance-driven colour-friendly workspace.Learn More
Interweaving nature in the workplace has become a core element in office interiors. It is highly beneficial. Apart from being an aesthetic decor choice, it has been proven to be beneficial to the well-being of those using the space. In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the bond between humans and nature and the principles of this design.Learn More
In today's fast-paced corporate world, where long hours and high productivity demands are the norm, it's crucial to recognise the significance of recreational spaces in the office environment. These spaces aren't just about providing a break from work; they are pivotal in enhancing employee well-being, creativity, and overall job satisfaction. Let’s delve into the importance of recreation spaces and explore some valuable tips for creating them effectively.Learn More
In the ever-evolving landscape of modern offices, where open-plan layouts and collaborative spaces are the norm, the importance of office acoustics cannot be overstated. Let’s take a closer look at the role of sound in the workplace how acoustic seating can boost your team’s productivity and well-being in the workplace.Learn More
In today's fast-paced and dynamic work environment, office design plays a pivotal role in the success of any organisation. Traditional cubicles and static workstations are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of modern-day work. Forward-thinking companies recognise the importance of creating diverse and adaptable environments that cater to their specific line of work.Learn More
Modern workspaces are designed to enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. One of the best ways to do this by catering to various personality types within your team. Let’s take a closer look at how your business can create an optimal workplace by considering the traits, characteristics, and preferences of your employees.Learn More